Traffic jams in Miami are a serious affair. If you happen to be driving on the streets or the highway during rush hour, be prepared for a standstill. Locals go to and from work during 7 am to 9 am, and then at 5 pm to 7 pm. The roads are pretty paralyzed with various car accidents along the way – Miamians have a reputation for being reckless drivers – so save your time and money and call that Uber later.
A little R&R along the pearly white sands of South Beach sounds enticing, but stay clear of this part of the island during the weekends. Saturdays and Sundays are jam-packed with tourists and locals who hit the beach after a long work week. Finding a free spot of sand to perch your umbrella is not the only problem, the streets also swell with cars, pedestrians, bikers, rollerbladers, skateboarders and noise that will perturb your relaxation. Escape the crowds by driving on to North Beach or Haulover Park where the crowds are scattered.
It’s always a good idea to ask a local for directions or tips. Miamians are very friendly and helpful, and they’ll point you to the right spots away from the fanfare.
Avoid the big tourist trap restaurants on the main streets, and wander off to the quieter neighborhoods to find the really good food locals are eating. In the search for these hidden gems, be cautious not to run into sketchy, empty alleyways at night. If it feels unsafe, it probably is.
Outside the hustle and bustle of the city, the suburbs are home to scenic parks, museums, and historic monuments worth a visit. Just next to Key Biscayne, the neighborhood of Coconut Grove sits along the Biscayne Bay with incredible views of the city, the marina and countless restaurants and bars to hang around on a night out. Visit the European-styled villa of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens or the Fairchild Gardens to experience the butterfly conservatory. Stop by the quaint suburb of Coral Gables with Spanish colonial architecture and a pedestrian-friendly street, Miracle Mile, which is rarely crowded.
If you happen to be short on time while driving on the highway, there’s an express lane option to get you to your destination quicker – it just varies in price. On the I-95 highway, prices fluctuate from $1.50 – $10 depending on the traffic.
If your itinerary includes trips to the museums or cultural centers, book tickets in advance to avoid waiting in queues. Tickets are often cheaper online, and there may be other promotions as well.
The saying, “the early bird gets the worm” is usually right. If you want to beat the crowds, be prepared to wake up early. Not only will you avoid the throngs of tourists, you’ll also have more time in the day to check off other things on your bucket list. Holidays are for doing things anyways (then you’ll need a vacation from this vacation).
If you’re not coming to Ultra Music Festival or Art Basel, then avoid traveling when these events are taking place. Both take up about a week or two luring thousands of people from all over the world and causing unchecked chaos around the city. Hotels are booked, restaurants are busy, streets are crowded, and you won’t understand the commotion because you’re not an EDM fan or an art lover. Ultra comes to Miami every spring in March and takes over all of Bayfront Park – so there’s no hope to get around in Downtown or Brickell during their stay. In December, Art Basel implodes with tents all over the city especially Miami Beach and Wynwood, so if you’re not an art enthusiast it’s best to avoid traveling during this time.
Depending on where you’re going, taking the public transportation might be the way out of traffic. The Metromover rides through parts of Brickell and Downtown and is automatic and free. The Metrorail’s tracks are also above the ground and can get you from the suburbs to all the way in Allapattah and beyond for $2.25. Enjoy the sweeping views of the city skyline from this vantage point in the comfortably cold a/c.
The U.S. has finally caught up with the whole chip card technology, so if you’re coming from places like Europe don’t bother having to exchange your euros. There are even a few cafes like Dr. Smood that no longer accept cash. Although it can come in handy for those random stores with a $10 minimum credit card rule, for the most part – just swipe. (Remember to alert your bank of your travel dates!)
If you want to visit a place without the crowds, Google has a smart tool to show you when a place is busy. Just search the name of the restaurant or museum, and it’ll give you a timeline of when it gets full so you can plan your visit accordingly.
It goes without saying that sometimes rumors are just that. Blogs and websites can recommend a place, and not rise up to the hype. So do your research through reviews before you make the trip to a certain spot. For example, Miami’s “historic” museums are spaces with few exceptional historical artifacts. If you’re caught between visiting a museum or sunbathing on the beach, head to the sand – most specifically Key Biscayne. That’s what you travel to Miami for!